Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Only 2 Days Till TheMagicDetective Blog Returns!

Coming in Just 2 Days, The Return of The Magic Detective Blog! I've written a number of articles that I've been saving. The first article will have a Houdini connection. I also have an article about Russia's greatest illusionist, and a brief article about Kalanag. They won't all appear on Sept 1, but you'll be seeing articles more often after that date. There's a lot more in store, so keep watching! Only 2 Days to Go!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The RETURN Of The Magic Detective!

On September 1st, the Magic Detective RETURNS with new articles, new content, an updated look (ok, more historical look). It's been a tough few months, as I'm sure you could tell from my last post. In that time, I've watched as other friends and associates have had to endure the trials of going through the death of a loved one, just as I did. I've had to sit back and be a spectator to the deaths of some iconic members of our magic family. 2016 has not been a good year. But, I'm determined to make it better! So September 1st, I'll put up my first blog article since April. I did post a brief article in June just to let every one know why I had vanished. But the true articles stopped back in April. Now, I'm ready to get in my time machine and travel to the past to enjoy more Magic History!!!!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Reason For My Absence

I must apologize for my short hiatus from this blog. The recent deaths of my Dad and my best friend have taken the wind from my sails. For those who don't know, my best friend, Bobby Dymond was a performer, magician, balloon artist and probably one of the greatest rock and roll drummers who ever lived. He had been battling cancer and came through all his procedures with flying colors. However, he developed pneumonia, and though it looked like he was on the mend, on May 2nd, while walking out the door of his house, he collapsed on the front steps. An ambulance was called but he eventually passed away right on the front steps. Cause of death was congestive heart failure linked to his pneumonia. His death was such a shock to everyone. He died May 2, 2016 at the age of 61.

Then, only days later, my Dad, who had been hospitalized for 40 consecutive days, died on May 15th, 2016. It is still very hard for me to speak of this, or write about it. He began with a heart valve replacement which went well, but then he had incredible side effects from the medication, so he ended up back in the hospital. Then he developed peritonitis, and then a few days later a strangulated hernia. If that was not enough, only days after these things he came down with c-diff.  After 40 days of hospitalization, the Doctors said there was nothing else they could do, he was not showing any signs of recovery. Each day he seemed to get worse. There was yet another ailment that developed on day 39. So, we decided to move him to a hospice. I went in the ambulance with him to the facility. He was awake and alert. When we got him into his new room, he was fine but eventually fell asleep. The nurses would come in every hour and check on him and though he was asleep he was fine. At 5:20am, the next morning they came in and he had passed. My mom stayed with him every single night he was in the hospital. I stayed with him most days, as both moral support and relief for my mom when she had to head home to take care of things.

So now you know where I've been. I'm sure that I will return to the blog eventually. Maybe even fairly soon. But for now, I'm still trying to work through everything. Thank you all for being loyal readers of my blog. I know when I return, I will have more great content and stories to share, until then, be safe and be well.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Obscura Day Houdini Escapes DC-Update

Atlas Obscura hosted a fun event yesterday in Washington D.C. that they called Houdini Escapes D.C.. The event showcased Houdini's many visits to D.C.. It was a two hour event that began with a viewing of Ken Trombly's Houdini collection. Ken also spoke for about 45 minutes about Houdini and his collection. Unfortunately, I missed this part, but I have seen parts of Ken's collection in the past and it's incredible!

And thanks to Brian Suddeth, who was present, I can share some photos from Ken's presentation.
As I mentioned, Ken has an incredible Houdini collection. I was blown away by all the posters he had the first time I saw them in his home. At the event he shared some of those posters and  he also shared some smaller photos during his talk. The photo to the right shows Houdini's Metamorphosis poster, his King of Cards Poster, and one of my favs, the Prison Cell and Barrel Mystery Poster. I'm sure Ken gave information about each of the posters.

The next photo from Ken Trombly's talk shows him holding a photo of Houdini and Teddy Roosevelt. This is a classic photo. Long before Photoshop existed, Houdini was altering photos! The actual photo has several people on both sides of Houdini and Roosevelt. But Harry, had them all painted over so it looked like he was the only one standing next to Teddy.

It's ironic that Ken showed that photo, because I had planned to share the story about Houdini meeting Roosevelt on board the SS Imperator and performing for the former president. In fact, I was going to demonstrate the slate trick that Houdini fooled Roosevelt with, but I cut it from the show at the last minute because I didn't want to run long.

After Ken's talk the attendees walked a short distance to Farragut Square Park to watch Carnegie (me) and Denise present a Houdini-like show. Because this was my portion of the program I'll tell you what we had intended and I'll tell you what actually happened. We planned to present the first half of the show AS Harry and Bess. We had our period costumes, we also had the same music Houdini used along with some other musical selections from that era. I was even going to do the Houdini-voice! However, the circumstances didn't really feel right for such a theatrical approach, so on the fly, I changed to more of a historical presentation. I still did all the material just in a slightly different manner. Thankfully, I have a fantastic assistant who knows to expect these types of things when working with me.

Our show began with a quick, silent-to music escape sequence which started with a chain escape, a rope 'thing', and a single handcuff escape. The rope 'thing' is something I created a while ago and is actually part of a longer routine. It begins with a piece of rope about 3 feet long, dropped into a bag. My hands go into the bag and a moment or two later come out with my hands tightly bound! It's a cool moment and gets a nice laugh from the audience because they do not expect it. Next, I move on to the handcuff escape. In this instance a pair of Hamburg 8s were used. Boom, boom, boom, three quick escapes in under two minutes. NOT the way Houdini would have done them, but a nice way to present it for 21st Century audiences.

Next I share a bit about Houdini the King of Cards and presented the classic Cards Across. I chose this effect because it was one that Robert-Houdin presented and Houdini got his start in magic via the book, The Memoirs of Robert-Houdin. I figured it was very likely that Houdini presented this particular trick, even though I don't have definitive proof.

The next segment was the multi-handcuff escape. Truly one of the most painful things I've had to endure. You see, I have a medical condition which has me on blood thinning medication. This medication causes me to bruise easily. From several days of rehearsal, I ended up with multiple bruises up and down both arms. In fact, we had to drop three pair of cuffs because they would no longer fit my wrists due to the swelling. I was still able to get 6 pair of cuffs on along with a pair of thumbscrews.

Once I was all cuffed, I stepped inside my make-shift 'Ghost House', in other words a cloth cabinet, and proceeded to escape. I tossed the individual cuffs over the top of the cabinet after I was free of them. The last piece I removed were the thumbscrews, which I did in the open rather than inside the cloth cabinet.

I followed the multi-cuff escape with my routine which I call Chaplin. It's basically a story about how Houdini met a young Charlie Chaplin in England before Chaplin's rise to fame. In the story, Houdini helps Chaplin earn some money by playing a guessing game of sorts and he is rewarded if he wins. I've presented this hundreds of times and it's always a fun routine, though it is better indoors in a theatre setting.

The last item was a 100 foot rope tie. I got two volunteers out of the audience to help tie me up and well, I proceeded to escape.  The wonderful thing about this escape is, you never know just how people will tie you up. People always go about it differently, sometimes they start with the hands, sometimes, they wrap you up first, it's always interesting to see what choices they take. After about three minutes I was completely tied and it took me about 2 minutes to free myself.

Those two events, Ken Trombly's Houdini collection and my show, probably would have made for a perfect event. But there was one more thing yet to do. We all walked several blocks to the location of the old Keith's Vaudeville Theatre. The location is the corner of 15th and G St.. Today the spot is filled by The Old Ebbit Grill. But in Houdini's day it was Keith's Theatre. January 12, 1922, Houdini presented a hanging straitjacket escape from this location. It was his second straitjacket escape in DC but it's also his most famous due to the iconic photo of him hanging upside down in front of the building with the Treasury building on the far right and the Washington Monument off in the distance.

When we all arrived at the location, I spoke for 10-15 minutes about Houdini's escape and some of his challenge escapes he performed in D.C.. I also brought out an original program from Keith's with Houdini on the cover, along with a vintage postcard of the theatre. I took a few questions following the talk and we wrapped things up right there. Incidentally, if you go into the Old Ebbit Grill, the doors you walk through are the same entrance way that was used for the Keith's Vaudeville theatre. And if you walk to the back seating area you'll be sitting in the area that was the theatre auditorium itself.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Le Grand David: The End of an Era

It's truly over. With the final Le Grand David Auction on Sunday April 10th, and with the Larcom Theatre for sale, the end of the LeGrand David reign as one of the greatest magic shows to ever grace a theatrical stage is done. Actually, it was over when they closed the show a few years ago but now all traces of this incredible journey have vanished.

I have such a mixed bag of emotions about this. Let me state first, I fully support the efforts of the cast to sell off their show, theater and materials. They have every right to do so. It's awfully kind of them to allow some of us in the magic community and theatre community to enjoy these treasures. I'm so very glad my friends from the cast were able to make some money off these wonderful items while they were still alive rather than leave it till after they were all gone. I think Vincent Van Gogh sold only a few paintings when he was alive and for very little money. It wasn't until after he was long gone that the world realized the true value of his art. For the cast of Le Grand David, though they have profited from the sale of their theatre(s) and show, I don't think enough people have yet realized the true value of their art. Perhaps, no price tag can be placed upon such a thing.
There is another side of me that hoped the show would continue on. In some way, even after the first show stopped and the Cabot St. Cinema Theatre was sold, I hoped a new version would take off at the Larcom Theater. I hoped as the older members bowed out that a new generation would come in and take over the show. Perhaps taking it to places that the previous show had never gone. But reality and time got in the way.  The cast began this grand adventure way back in the 1970s and now forty years later,  it was time for them to seek a different path. They more than did their duty for king and country.

So why do I have visions of Cesareo with his arms crossed and a frown upon his face? Would he be upset with the members? If he could relay a message from the great beyond, would he tell them how sad he is that his nearly impossible dream that was brought to life is gone? Here is what I think, I think he would be a little sad, but he would understand. And would encourage his friends to seek out the best of life and live every moment fully aware that together they achieved what no one else could do. They were all true wizards in every sense of the word. I think he would encourage them to move beyond this chapter and find a new adventure, for themselves, whatever it might be.

I do think he is still standing with his arms crossed and a concerned look on his face however. Not because he is unhappy with his friends in Beverly. Because he is unhappy with the world of magic. So many have lost their way and forgotten the beauty and wonder inherent in magic.  His dreams therefor fall upon his disciples to carry on his vision to a new generation of theater goers. We who present stage magic, must pick up this magic torch and carry it forward so that the dream lives on.

And those of us who are collectors, we can remember them through the treasures they have allowed us to obtain through their two auctions!

The poster/painting (above) which was painted by Rick Heath with artistic direction by Cesareo, is now in the Carnegie collection (me). Below, you will see a hand painted Find The Lady stage card trick which is also now part of my collection. And from the previous auction, The Peacock Backdrop, The first Floating Tables, One of Cesareo's costumes, and The Sack Escape.